Six former eBay directors and employees are accused of sending a box of cockroaches and a package containing fly larvae to intimidate a pair of journalists who they believed negatively covered the company. The complaint suggests that former eBay CEO Devin Wenig was aware of the campaign and may have helped direct it.
In a criminal complaint filed last week, former eBay director of safety and security James Baugh and former director of global resiliency David Harville, along with four other former employees, were charged with conspiracy to commit cyberstalking and conspiracy to commit witness tampering.
The charges stem from an alleged scheme directed at a couple in Massachusetts, who run an ecommerce review website. The complaint does not name the couple, but lists several of their blog posts, which were published on a website called ecommercebytes.com, run by Ina Steiner.
The complaint seems to suggest that Wenig, who left the company at the end of last year, had a problem with Steiner’s work, though he is not named in the complaint and has not been charged with anything.
“eBay executives, including Executives 1 and 2, followed the Newsletter with interest, often taking issue with the content of Victim 1’s coverage of eBay,” the complaint said. “On April 10, 2019, for example, Executive 2 texted Executive 1, “We are going to crush this lady,” sending along a link to the Newsletter’s coverage that day of Executive 1’s compensation.”
That day, Steiner published a blog post called “eBay CEO Devin Wenig Earns 152 Times That of Employees.”
“The newsletter itself was not particularly melodramatic or anything like that. It was a fairly routine online newsletter that would publish articles about, or reviews of, services provided by ecommerce companies,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a press conference. “I think we would characterize the site as fairly routine and not particularly prominent.”
According to the complaint, anonymous and threatening messages were sent to the couple online and disturbing deliveries were sent to the couple’s home by the defendants. Anonymous email accounts, cell phones, and internet connections were used and the packages were paid for with prepaid debit cards.
Deliveries included a package containing live spiders and a book on how to survive the death of a loved one. On one occasion, a Halloween mask featuring a bloodied pig face was sent to the couple. A few minutes after the package’s arrival, an online message was sent from an anonymous account asking: “DO I HAVE UR ATTENTION NOW????”
The defendants are alleged to have posted a classified ad on Craigslist inviting singles, couples, and swingers to come to the couple’s home to party after 10 p.m. The couple was allegedly physically surveilled in the Boston area by some of the defendants. According to the complaint, people who worked on this campaign were told not to mention eBay executives’ names.
The campaign against the pair of bloggers also included an attempt to manipulate the couple, with one of the defendants, Brian Gilbert—who notably is a former police captain in Santa Clara, California—calling the couple as a representative from eBay and offering to help in an attempt to garner good will from them.
“I can tell you that at least internally here we’ve never seen a company that did something like this before,” Lelling said in the press conference.
In response to a request for comment from Motherboard, a spokesperson for Ebay sent a link to the company’s public statement regarding the incident.
“The Company cooperated fully and extensively with law enforcement authorities throughout the process. eBay does not tolerate this kind of behavior. eBay apologizes to the affected individuals and is sorry that they were subjected to this. eBay holds its employees to high standards of conduct and ethics and will continue to take appropriate action to ensure these standards are followed,” the statement said.
Ina Steiner did not respond to a request for comment. Ecommercebytes posted a press release of the arrests.